What do they do?
An EQ allows you to control the amount of low-, high- and mid-range frequencies in your tracks. Some are simple bass and treble controls, while others are splayed across eight, 16 or even 32 frequency bands, each with a slider to cut or boost a specific frequency or set of frequencies.
EQs and filters are essentially the same thing, except that a filter is designed primarily to attenuate (or reduce) rather than boost the levels of specified frequencies.
These tools allow you to shape the tone of your tracks - a good mix is one where the various sounds don’t crowd each other out, and an EQ or filter is designed to help tame or emphasise frequencies to achieve this.
How do they work?
EQs and filters give you one or more controls that boost or reduce the level of a specific frequency.
Filters are the simplest - they usually provide a single ‘cutoff’ frequency above or below which the signal will be filtered. A low-pass filter allows only frequencies below the cutoff frequency to pass through; a high-pass does the opposite.
A filter sometimes allows control over ‘Q’, which determines how precise it is. EQs have Q, too, though it’s often called bandwidth. Some equalisers only affect preset frequencies (graphic EQs are like this), while others are parametric, meaning they allow you to choose which frequency is boosted or attenuated.
Use it on...
Apply equalisation as a means to make room in your mix or to correct for missing frequencies in your recordings. Do your vocal and guitar fight for dominance? Cut the upper mids in the guitar to make room for the voice.